Kandal’s Fisheries Administration halted a soil-digging operation in a dried-out lake bed and ordered 30 dirt-laden trucks to be parked until further notice on Monday, the commune chief accused of inappropriately authorising the digging said yesterday.
Russey Chroy commune chief Um Chhong Sreng confirmed that fisheries officials had told him he had no right to move the soil because he did not own it. He countered that he was only following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s call on local officials to deepen ponds and waterways to help fight the record drought in the country.
“I did it to comply with Samdech’s speech,” he said by phone. “The provincial and district governors instructed each commune to check if their lakes are shallow and the need to deepen them but when I make it deeper, they say I am wrong.”
Several businessmen paid the commune leadership $20,000 for the right to take the soil away and sell it as building material elsewhere. Sreng said he used the money to improve a road in the commune.
However, CNRP commune official Thai Sothea said that the “businessmen” include the commune chief’s son and a member of the commune council in charge of development. Sreng could not be reached a second time to comment on this allegation.
Fisheries Administration officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.